OK, so I will start this with an ENORMOUS admission. I am the last person to lecture you about exercise being so good for you. When I was teaching, I would be on my feet from 8-5 and would be so exhausted that by the end of the day, I wouldn’t run for a bus let alone for enjoyment. And that was when I was healthy (...ier)!
So, how do you incorporate exercise into your life when getting down stairs can be a struggle? From pain, fatigue, debilitating symptoms, and limited mobility, pushing yourself out of your comfort zone can be terrifying, how do you break through the wall of worry?
There are a number of ways in which to incorporate exercise in your daily life. From gentle stretches when you're bed bound, to extreme sports- our world is limitless.
*The following exercises have all been suggested by a reputable physiotherapist with experience working with disabled and chronically ill clients.
HEAD AND SHOULDER CIRCLES
Prop yourself up on a few pillows and slowly circle your head from left to right, stretching your neck. Roll your shoulder back and forwards to loosen the muscles. If you are able, hold one arm by the elbow and stretch it across your chest to stretch your upper arms and muscles. This will help engage your muscles and encourage blood flow to these areas which in turn will ease the pain.
Begin by bringing your hand toward your body. With an open palm, extend your fingers for a few seconds. Then, touch your thumb with each finger. Repeat this exercise on the other hand. Try doing this exercise a couple times on each hand every day. This will also help with coordination if you struggle with dexterity.
Jab forward, alternating arms. You want some speed here, so snap your arm forward as fast as you can, without fully extending your elbow joint, and then pull it back in as fast as you can. Do anywhere from 10 to 30 reps. Simple air-punching, with or without hand weights, is an easy cardio exercise from a seated position, and can be fun when playing along with a Nintendo Wii or Xbox 360 video game.
Select your favourite music. Sit on your bed, on a chair, or on an exercise ball (if your balance is sufficient). Here, the focus is on moving to the music in whatever way you can. Bounce up and down, wave your arms in the air, gyrate your hips, and tap your feet. To make it slightly more challenging, you can add wrist and/or ankle weights. It’s an excellent way to get your heart racing and your body moving.
SIT TO STAND
Perch your bottom at the front edge of a seat with your feet flat on the floor, behind your knees. Tilt the upper body forward slightly and attempt to push yourself up with your legs into a fully standing position. Slowly lower yourself back down into the seated position you started in.
SEATED TRICEP DIPS
Sitting, place your hands on the armrests of your wheelchair or another chair. Make sure they are directly beneath your shoulders. Push yourself up until your arms are fully extended, then slowly lower yourself down until you are fully seated again.
SEATED KNEE RAISES
When seated, raise one knee upwards until your foot is several inches off the ground. Lower slowly and repeat the process. Once you’ve completed a set on one side, repeat this on the other leg.
DORSAL RAISES (BACK EXTENSIONS)
Start the exercise lying face down. Bring your fingertips to your temples and spread your elbows wide. Raise your head and shoulders up from the floor at the same time as your thighs. Slowly lower without relaxing completely by preventing the arms from touching the floor.
DORSAl RAISES (BACK EXTENSIONS) IN A WHEELCHAIR/SITTING:
In your wheelchair, or seated on any other stable platform, bend over from the waist until your upper body is facing down toward the floor. From this position, slowly extend the head and back to bring yourself to an upright position and repeat the movement.